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Food Lion hopes to gobble up a good chunk of financially troubled rival Bi-Lo.
Belgium-based Delhaize Group, which owns Food Lion, announced Monday it is in talks to buy stores and inventory for $425 million from the Mauldin-based supermarket chain.
Bi-Lo filed for bankruptcy protection in March after it was unable to refinance or repay a $260 million loan that was due.
Delhaize said Monday it would integrate Bi-Lo stores into its Food Lion unit if the deal is approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
The two rival chains compete for shoppers in many of the same markets, including in Beaufort County. Bi-Lo has two stores in Beaufort and two on Hilton Head Island, according to its Web site. Food Lion already has one store on Hilton Head, two in Bluffton and two in Beaufort, according to its Web site.
Lorrie Griffith, editor of food trade journal The Shelby Report of the Southeast, said some locations are likely to go dark as Food Lion absorbs Bi-Lo and looks at ways to cut waste and maximize its return on investment.
"What you hear from the market is they are oversaturated as it is in most areas," Griffith said from her Gainesville, Ga., office. "There are more grocery stores than business to go around. They have some overlapping stores. Depending on how close they are, they may have to make some decisions on what to keep open."
Food Lion and Bi-Lo declined to comment on whether stores that are sold will change names or if any of locations would be closed.
The Bi-Lo chain has been owned by Lone Star Funds, a private equity investment firm, since late 2004. The chain operates 214 stores in South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia and employs 15,500 workers.
Food Lion has more than 1,300 stores in 11 states with 74,000 employees.